How do Dickinson's "Because I could not Stop for Death" and Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" compare and contrast in tone, style, subject, and theme?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would say that these poems are more different than similar. As for similarities, both poems convey a sense of calmness from the narrator. Both narrators convey a sense of relaxation. In the Dickinson poem, the narrator and Death are on a leisurely drive together. There is no rush or immediacy about them. The narrator might have been too busy to stop for Death, but once she dies, everything is calm.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
The Frost poem is similar in this feeling as well. The narrator has stopped by a forest to watch it fill with snow. He's not forcing his horse to gallop at breakneck speeds to reach his destination. We know he has a destination based on the final stanza of the poem; however, he is calm enough to spend some time in quiet reflection about a snowfall.
He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.
As for differences, I think a central difference is in the subject matter. Dickinson's narrator is now free from all responsibilities. Her labor and leisure have been put away, and they have been put away forever. She's dead. Her work is accomplished, and she is at peace with what she has accomplished; however, that is not the case in the Frost poem. The final stanza conveys a sense of weary resignation to the work that the narrator still has to get to. He has promises to keep and miles to go before he might be allowed to rest. We don't know what his promises are, but we do get the sense that his moment of rest is a rarity that he doesn't often get to enjoy. Regarding theme, I believe that both poems convey a theme about a person's mortality. This is easily identified in the Dickinson poem since the poem is about the narrator's attitude regarding death. The mortality theme is also evident in the Frost poem; however, it is less obvious. The final stanza shows readers that the man is aware that his time on Earth is finite. He knows that he is going to die someday, but he also knows that he has much to accomplish for himself and others before his time of eternal sleep.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial